To be a leader you must know when to follow


Many people misinterpreted my use of the term "reluctant" to describe the attitude of the designers in changing the way the Date/Time control panel functions. It was a reluctance of shame, not a reluctance of defiance.

Your software is there for the users, not vice versa. If you find that your users are using the software in a manner contrary to its intended purpose, your first reaction may be to try to educate users not to do whatever it is they're doing. But eventually you reach a point where the efforts in convincing people not to do something dangerous outweighs the cost of just making it less dangerous. (Even though this may annoy those who genuinely want to perform that dangerous activity.)

You may not do it with a smile on your face (hence the reluctance), but you know deep in your heart that it's the right thing to do.

Side note: Why did the Date/Time control panel apply changes immediately anyway? Historical artifact. That's the way the Date/Time control panel has worked since Windows 1.0. In fact, originally, the Date/Time control panel didn't even have a Cancel button. Any changes you made to the time took effect immediately and irrevocably. (Mind you, MS-DOS and the original Macintosh did the same thing.) It wasn't until after Windows 95 shipped that this behavior started being a problem.

Comments (17)
  1. James Risto says:

    I think we should convince car manufacturers to have blogs, and see if people flame them for what they do as much as they do software companies. Seems to me, people choose their cars then live with them.

  2. Al Kharee says:

    Of course, earlier versions of Windows had the Clock and similar applets, and it was harder to get to the Date/Time controls. I suspect that if Win95 had pulled a GNOME/KDE and made the taskbar clock pop up a normal calendar, people wouldn’t be accidentally changing time settings so frequently.

    Yes, I know GNOME and KDE added this feature well after Win95 came out. Still, who changes their timezone so frequently that it had to be the double-click action for the clock?

  3. Jeff Parker says:

    Hmm, good post very insightful, definitely gives you something to think about. Many times I see my software being used in ways it was not intended to be used. Sometimes I am filled with pride because people can take my stuff and do things I never thought of doing and make things better. Other times I sit there and think "What the heck are they doing no wonder they are having problems I never intended that for that use." I usually have to sit there and develop a new solution for them but I do it reluctantly. It just give me something to think about in my attitudes sometimes, thanks Raymond.

  4. mschaef says:

    "I think we should convince car manufacturers to have blogs, and see if people flame them for what they do as much as they do software companies. Seems to me, people choose their cars then live with them. "

    http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/

    Some comments from posters:

    "Ditto for the Impala, which is as dull as dishwater and the seats are less comfortable than the old model to boot….None of your vehicles is very impressive, thats the problem…You aren’t producing compelling cars.

    …why, if your cars are supposedly more reliable now, aren’t you giving a 10 year Warranty to match Hyundai? "

    "It almost seems like GM’s given up, and is just waiting for the right time to throw in the towel…Seriously GM, would it kill you to take a look at what the competition is doing, and then build better cars than they are?…A RWD Chevy version of the Honda Accord Hybrid would he a hot seller. …A hybrid Solstice would also be hot….A PZEV V-8 Camaro would also be sweet."

    "But you still don’t seem to be using the ‘corporate part bins’ as creatively as you might. "

    "Let’s face it Bob: your "new" SUV’s are fighting a rear-guard action on an abandonned battlefield."

    "For a guy your age, you seem awfully hung up on what the media is saying. "

    "GM is making it very hard to be a loyal customer. Nothing you make excites, or if it does happen to do so in concept it fails in application."

    That wasn’t even hard to find.

  5. BlackTigerX says:

    just yesterday, I had a performance issue using a component created by another team in my company, since they don’t provide the source code, I started messing around to see how I could speed it up

    This component provides methods to navigate across an xml file, but is really slow to load from a stream, and very slow to navigate, so what I ended up doing (forget about the component) was to load the xml directly into a stream, put it in a sorted list, then I could go directly to the stuff that was of interest to me much faster =o)

    needless to say I feel guilty, but the version of the component I’m using is unsupported

  6. mschaef says:

    I had wanted to make one more comment, and slipped on the submit button.

    Ironically enough, I think that these companies should take solace in the complaining. I take the complaints to mean that people actually care about what you sell. I think the situation would be far worse if nobody cared enough to say (or buy) anything.

  7. Steve Loughran says:

    Of course, the other funny thing about the date time view is that timezone view has a map of the world, but since win98 (or ’95 OSR2?) it doesnt do anything. All because india got upset about clicking on bits of pakistan-controlled-india setting the pakistan TZ and not the india ones.

    So for, what, 6 years, we’ve had a dialog box that has most of its area taken up with a world map that does nothing, and an undersized droplist of options. Whereas they could have done something useful like given a list of all/common/popular tzones and their current time. Which is actually, like, useful, especially on a laptop.

  8. James Risto says:

    Looks like I stand corrected! However, does not seem to have the religious fever against it that MS software does, on every little thing.

  9. The Kiwi says:

    If you find that your users are using the software in a manner contrary to its intended

    > purpose, your first reaction may be to try to educate users not to do whatever it is they’re doing.

    MS still seems very reluctant to let users treat the Desktop as a folder, for example if i save a file from IE to the desktop and upon completion click the "Open Folder" button (on the standard download progress window) it gives the disingenious response: "The target you specified is on your desktop." and neglects to show me the folder (or even minimize the open windows).

    Well duh I know its on the desktop that is the location I specified for it. MS seems intent on teaching me that the desktop is not a folder I should be able to open rather it is a location that is only accessible by minimizing all open windows.

  10. Tim Smith says:

    Raymond,

    I printed your second paragraph (all but the last sentence) and posted it on my door. The director of programming walked by and joked that he wanted to have that quote printed on t-shirts for every tools programmer at work.

  11. Jef Parker says:

    Tim Smith,

    I want to work you, I guess you know Rayond post some of the most deep insitefull things into programming and into the deeo core of windows. He gets 100’s of replies he posts something clearly insiteful into our purpose as programmers that we all know is morally correct and to have a manager recognize it is amazing. Sad really this post hasn’t recieved more comments.

  12. mschaef says:

    "However, does not seem to have the religious fever against it that MS software does, on every little thing"

    I think there are several reasons for this:

    * Software people are more inclined to be online and talk online.

    * Computers and software are cheaper and more accessible than cars. It has a broader audience.

    * The car industry is more mature. In software, we’re closer to the bad feelings that sometimes arise from industry consolidation.

    * The car industry has higher capital requirements. It’s much harder for people to think they could do a better car than it is for people to think they could do better software.

    * The auto industry has more choice: many more comparable products in each class. People feel more empowered with cars than they do with software.

    If the last two points seem contradictory, they are until you consider that most people that complain about software don’t do anything about it. They feel they _could_ do a better job, but since they don’t, they end up "boxed in" by the choices available in industry. (I’m not saying that this makes sense.)

  13. Tim Smith says:

    Heh, we just posted a new opening on my tools team at BioWare. Come work in balmy Edmonton Alberta Canada.

    *snicker*

    "balmy"… I crack myself up.

  14. Dan McCarty says:

    After the last flare-up about the date/time control panel applet, I thought about why it bugged me so much. I came up with a few reasons:

    1. The window is titled "Date/Time Properties." This does nothing to let me know that I am _setting_ the date and time when I make changes. Mouse or Keyboard properties means something to me; they are objects that have properties. But what the heck is a property of date/time?

    2. The icon, which IIRC hasn’t changed since Win3.1*, shows an oversized rolodex-style calendar and a small clock. Gee, looks like a calendar app!

    3. As others have noted, Windows doesn’t have a built-in calendar.

    4. As more others have noted, double clicking the time in the system tray (woah I didn’t just call it that) brought up the calendar.

    So FWIW, I think Windows needs a real calendar accessory.

    * Icons that don’t change aren’t a bad thing. I value consistency over coolness. IMO MS should concentrate more on making _real_ UI improvements, not redesigning the icons for every app release. But bad icons that don’t change _are_ a bad thing.

  15. Nick Lamb says:

    That GNOME "calendar" isn’t just a calendar either, it’s a live view onto your schedule and TODO list. Rather than run the very heavyweight Evolution suite all the time you can just click the clock, and see "Oh, I have a 1430 with Janet, and I still need to buy more cat food".

    [Now I just need to make it synchronise with my phone…]

    And GNOME’s world map tweaks the political message by simply eliminating the zone lines. You can click near London and get "London time", or Shanghai and get "Shanghai time". If people are choosing the "wrong time" that’s between them and their local oppressive regime.

  16. dhwz says:

    Windows used to come with a real calendar accessory.

    http://www.guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/calendar (scroll down to the bottom)

    Too bad it was removed.

  17. Good Point says:

    Raymond said:

    Your software is there for the users, not vice versa. If you find that your users are using the software in a manner contrary to its intended purpose, your first reaction may be to try to educate users not to do whatever it is they’re doing. But eventually you reach a point where the efforts in convincing people not to do something dangerous outweighs the cost of just making it less dangerous. (Even though this may annoy those who genuinely want to perform that dangerous activity.)

    So, are you telling us that after 10 years of studying this, Microsoft will display a Calendar Applet if you double click on the clock in the system tray?

    Even if you’re not doing it with a smile, at least it’s progress.

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content